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How St. Petersburg SEO company Hoth builds culture with a “living” document

“We’re constantly evolving. We have to make sure that we stay very nimble — especially within our industry,” said Hoth chief operations officer George Papadeas.
 
The angry monster mascot at The Hoth, a SEO marketing company, Monday, March 13, 2023 in St. Petersburg.
The angry monster mascot at The Hoth, a SEO marketing company, Monday, March 13, 2023 in St. Petersburg. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]
Published March 24, 2023

Employees at search engine marketing company Hoth lined up for bagels on the Monday morning after the Daylight Saving time change.

In their hybrid setting — where workers go to the downtown St. Petersburg office at least three times a week — breakfast on Mondays and lunch on Fridays has become a regular fixture to entice workers to come in.

“We’re starting and ending the week strong with this little boost of morale,” said Hoth director of people and culture Alizé Luft, 26.

At Hoth, adjusting quickly is part of their 7-page culture document: “Embrace Change.”

Employees enjoy breakfast, provided by the company every Monday, at The Hoth, a SEO marketing company, Monday, March 13, 2023 in St. Petersburg.
Employees enjoy breakfast, provided by the company every Monday, at The Hoth, a SEO marketing company, Monday, March 13, 2023 in St. Petersburg. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]

“We’re constantly evolving. We have to make sure that we stay very nimble — especially within our industry,” said Hoth chief operations officer George Papadeas, 31.

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When new employees join Hoth, founded in 2010, they are first introduced to the “culture doc” as a baseline for what’s expected of them at the company and to get a sense of their values. Hoth has 80 employees. The company has made the Tampa Bay Times Top Workplaces three times. Throughout the year, managers will use the culture doc in performance reviews to evaluate adherence to those values, Luft said.

At least once a year, the company’s HR team updates the document to reflect any changes or tweak wording that employees at any level in the company can suggest.

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George Papadeas, chief operations officer at The Hoth, a SEO marketing company, explains about the company’s unique approach to workplace culture, Monday, March 13, 2023 in St. Petersburg.
George Papadeas, chief operations officer at The Hoth, a SEO marketing company, explains about the company’s unique approach to workplace culture, Monday, March 13, 2023 in St. Petersburg. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]

“We’ve always seen it as a living, breathing document that is open to evolution,” Luft said. “As the company changes, as our team grows, we want to make sure it’s an accurate reflection of our combined values.”

In one case, a new team member suggested to change the phrasing of “not being afraid of making mistakes” in the document to “not being afraid of learning lessons.” The slight wording difference was a more positive outlook on making mistakes, Luft said, so they changed it.

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Even though the company’s mascot is an angry red monster, Luft said the company aims to put their employees first and prioritize their happiness. Not only is there catered food, but dogs can come to the office and people can choose what two days they work from home.

“If your people are taken care of, then that will have a positive domino effect everywhere else,” Luft said. “Then the clients will see that the people they’re interacting with are happy and supported.”

In the document, it lays out that all employees from the top down should have a solutions-based mindset, embrace change, recognize others, prioritize well-being and have fun.

COO Papadeas’ personal favorite guideline is “mess up, fess up.”

“People make mistakes,” Papadeas said. “It’s not about the mistake, it’s how we are rectifying it and moving forward.”

Karl Bartling, points out toward the view of Tampa Bay visible from his desk at The Hoth, a SEO marketing company, Monday, March 13, 2023 in St. Petersburg.
Karl Bartling, points out toward the view of Tampa Bay visible from his desk at The Hoth, a SEO marketing company, Monday, March 13, 2023 in St. Petersburg. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]

At the end of the day, it’s not the document that builds the culture but the people. Luft said when hiring, Hoth prioritizes culture over resume qualifications to help keep the environment positive. They look for people with character, integrity and willingness to learn.

“We pride ourselves on hiring really, really good people that have a lot of potential where we can nurture that and grow them and have them be a part of what we’re building here,” Luft said.

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Hoth

Hoth is a search engine marketing company.

Location: St. Petersburg

Employees: 80

Website: www.thehoth.com

Employee comments: “I feel like I’m able to contribute to the direction of the company in a meaningful way. I am challenged and trusted by my leaders to ideate and execute. I feel like I am celebrated for the wins, but I also feel comfortable taking chances, making mistakes, and even sometimes failing, because of the environment they have created.”

“I love having specific tasks to knock out and knowing I am getting a job well done. I love the time they allow us to learn new responsibilities, make sure we are entirely comfortable before handing over the keys, and consistently hire internally.”

“Hoth gives me a lot of flexibility with what I do. They give me goals and let me develop my own path to get there, and in the process, I get to do things in my own unique way. Communication is also top notch.”